A government shutdown is a rare occurrence. There have been exactly twenty-one government shutdowns throughout US history, and half of those have not lasted more than a weekend. In some terms there have been upwards of 8, Ronald Reagan's for example, but for the most part it is a seldom occurrence, they generally last only for a short period and go pretty unnoticed. Most people are not aware or affected by them.
This is not the case in the DMV area. Many government workers are on a hiatus, but not from their actual work, just from their pay. Each Government agency has its plan for the shutdown, which brings many of the agency’s activities to a halt. Only “essential services” remain open, most of which are related to public health and safety, such as medical care, air-traffic control, border protection, and power grid maintenance. Even with these remaining active, the population is still affected greatly.
In 2013 when the shutdown included the IRS, there was a backlog of 1.2 million search requests, delayed mortgages, and loan approvals.
This shutdown has been the longest in U.S. history, spanning over some time of 34 days as of today, January 24th. On January 12th it broke the previous record of 21 days, set in 1995. This is not something to be proud of, as 800,000 federal workers are not receiving a paycheck, and the loss of these government services is affecting millions more. One can only sustain himself for so long until you run out of money to spend, even when you're only covering necessities. Many of these workers are running their tanks completely dry.
How can this be legal? Technically, it’s not. State and Federal laws regarding pay (Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA) encompass most all businesses in the United States. Although there are different overtime pay laws for public employees, the laws state the minimum wage, when employees must be paid, and who must pay overtime. FLSA laws also set recordkeeping and youth employment rules for the majority of public and private sector jobs. Neglecting to abide by them is in most cases a federal crime.
Does the government get some sort of exception to these rules? Many believe the government’s decision to not pay their workers while still forcing them to work, is unconstitutional and they have tried to put an end to it in the courts. Federal employee unions have requested a temporary restraining order, blocking the government from demanding their employees to work without compensation, which was denied by a U.S. District Judge in Washington. The law states that if you have employees, you must pay them, this applies to all but generally companies that are going under or are not making a profit because they need somewhere to cut expenses. This is not the issue the government is having; they need to shut down due to the conflict over building the wall. While so many workers are angry about there lack of income, a bill was recently put in place ensuring they would be fully compensated in pay when the shutdown reaches its demise.
This is great news but does not mean they will not still suffer due to all the debt some have acquired. Although the last two Senate bills attempting to end the shutdown have failed there is an end in sight.